Women stand in the middle of Beirut’s busy streets. They are wearing white wedding dresses shrouded by floor length veils. These clothes represent what it is globally thought of as one of the most significant days in a woman’s life. Yet these women look grim and their dresses, on closer inspection, appear to be made out of bandages. One woman holds out a bandaged hand flecked with blood as the women stare silently out at the busy traffic around them. These are the images that have been coming out of Beirut this week as women stood together in the hope of abolishing Article 522 of the Lebanese Penal Code.
This article states that a man will not be prosecuted for rape, if he marries his victim; specifically, it says: “In the event a legal marriage is concluded between the person who committed [crimes including rape, kidnapping and statutory rape] and the victim, prosecution shall be stopped and in case a decision is rendered, the execution of such decision shall be suspended against the person who was subject to it.” It is an article that focuses not on the great suffering of the rape victim, nor on the great atrocity that has been committed, but on the honour of the victim’s family. As though rape in any circumstance could be a victim’s fault, as though rape is a reflection of the victim and not of the perpetrator.
ABAAD, an NGO that promotes gender quality in the Middle East and North Africa, have made a disturbing and yet salient video concerning this article. In it a young woman lies tense on the floor, her back a constellation of bruises and cuts. Hands begin to wrap bandages around her wounds as she remains lying on the floor, her legs curled up into her chest. Eventually she stands up, seemingly trapped in a gauzy veil. As the image pans out, we see that underneath the veil her bandages are cruelly mocking a wedding dress. The last thing we see is her silent scream.
It is a video that powerfully shows the trauma these marriages add to already traumatised women. But this law which directly affects victims of rape in Lebanon also affects all women across the globe. It is a reminder that though we have won so many battles, the outcome of the war is still undeclared.
Today, however, we are one step closer. The women on the streets of Beirut are starting to discard the veils and bandaged wedding dresses of their protest as the article has been repealed. It is a victory for the brave women of Lebanon. One which we might mark with a moment of celebration before we pick up our placards and march on.
Check this video by Rana El Najjar https://www.facebook.com/ranajjar/videos/10154888018062147/?pnref=story